Abbildungen der Seite

and still vastening, and ever more vastening, it rose from the earth, self-moved, tremulous in every part with life, huge, dreadful, with deep rifts, and chasms, and gults of darkness. And there flashed therefrom a thousand lightnings which, darting and glancing everywhere, like serpents, presently became fixed in the thick dark air, like

, veins of white in a block of black marble. Then from the rifts and chasms of darkness, the skin-wrinkles and hollows of the living cloudhorror, crawled forth all hideous and unclean things, huge, monstrous; and after them all the wild untamed creatures of the universe, whose home is the blanks of space.

And noises, horrible and full of terror, were everywhere; uncarthly noises, to which the howlings of the midnight forest, and the wildest yells of savages, and the fiercer cries of blood-drinking, revolutionary mobs, were but as the welcome sounds of blessed childhood.

Then all ceased. A silence more awful than the noises fell heavily on the earth ; and the lightning serpent-forms disappeared, and the spectre-forms crept back into the rifts and chasms of darkness in the living horror; and after them, the unclean things, huge, monstrous, crawled in again, and in every part the horror was tremulous with life. And yet a while the silence lasted. Not a sound was heard. All was still as the grave.

Then a voice, close behind the terror-stricken man, said, “Mortal, this is the throne of God. Hearken !' And as he shrunk and cowered, a voice from the dreadful throne, clear and articulate, though louder than a thousand thunders, said, “PRAY NO MORE! MORTALS SHALL PRAY NEVER MORE!' And the sound went echoing everywhere, Pray no more-never more ! Never more! And the blood thickened in his veins; and an icy cold, keener than of arctic winters, breathed upon him, and he became a pillar of ice, frost-rooted to the ground ; only, his brain was on fire, and his heart still beat.

And he saw the angels of God summoned to the foot of the throne. And they came; forms of light, radiant, glorious as suns, and clothed in rainbow vesture. And they received commandment to go down to earth, and cause all prayer everywhere to cease. And at the command they waxed deadly pale; and the radiance grew dim, and each became like the corpse of a mortal; and their rainbow vesture turned into sackcloth, and became a shroud; while every eyelid drooped with heavy tears, which, as they flowed over, fell, and falling, turned into blood, and rained down on the earth a red rain. Then they fell upon their faces before the throne, beseeching to be spared from such an errand. But when they looked upward, to see how their prayer sped, they were scared at what they saw, and fled away from before the awful brow, whose frown-wrinkles were the rifts, and chasms, and gulfs of blackness-away! away! away! and fled, and still they fled, till they had left the farthest world, and faintest embryo of a world, behind them, and stood trembling and aghast on the utmost verge of creation.

Then, ten thousand times ten thousand demons stood before the throne, and eagerly prayed to be the ministers of his will; and, forth



with, came down to earth. And as they came, every star dropped tears of sorrow over this miserable world, and, waning, glimmered only like a dying taper in a dark vault. And as they came near, all things felt their presence. The leaves of all trees turned black and shrivelled, as when fierce heat has followed upon hoar frost; every blade of grass withered, and every flower lost its scent and colour ; and everywhere on the ground there were cinders for stones, and the dust of the earth was ashes.

And the demons spread themselves abroad over all the earth on their eager errand. Some of them entered into human beings prepared for such possession, who forthwith went into the homes and secret chambers of the holy, and, dragging everyone that prayed from his knees—the old man in his solitary room, the child lisping its evening prayer at a mother's knee--made them listen and look upward, as the decree kept still reverberating through the world. Some clothed themselves in shapes such as only the frenzied heretofore had scen; while others became a hateful presence, visible only to spiritual eyes.

The daughter, kneeling beside her dying mother, felt a strange, unearthly touch_heard-looked up-shrieked_and died! The young mother, pressing her first-born to her bosom, as it pined and moaned in sickness, bent over it in purest prayer for the precious life; and as she prayed, and almost believed her prayer was beginning to be answered, she felt a cold, clammy hand upon her mouth, scaling her lips from prayer, as though a toad had crept there, keeping ugly guard; and her babe fell from her convulsed arms, and was choked with ashes.

The father, wrestling in prayer for a wicked son, had the breath of prayer sucked up from his lips, and stifled; and, tearing his thin white hair, in the terrible revulsion of hope turned into despair, sought death by his own hands.

A storm raged over the sea. A sailor child thought of his far-off home, and how his mother prayed, and with hurried steps climbed to the top of the quivering mast to pray. But there, too, the decree wrought, for one howled it into his ear; and, starting in sudden fright he fell, and was swallowed in the boiling billows, while peals of hollow laughter encompassed the lonely ship, and shook the shrouds, and the sailors cowered together, and dared not move, for every wave seemed ridden by the hags of night.

The prayer-stiflers hurried to a deep, dark cell, where the walls, green and slimy, were dripping with the damps of ages; and where a chained and fettered patriot had found in all the long years of his captivity one only solace_in crying to his God; and they turned the NAME into a curse, and breathed it reversed upon his brow; and left him, chained and fettered, a raving maniac, in his cell below the waters.

In their subterranean halls of judgment, hung round with black, inquisitors in robes of doom watched a victim on the rack. Their stony eyes watched coldly how he bore the successive turns of the

The power

torture-engine. But he bore all in brave, uncomplaining silence; for inwardly he called on God, and prayer gave courage to his heart, and made his will like iron; a hero with none to admire, with none to know; his God sufficed him. Suddenly, blank despair fell upon him. .

of prayer was gone! and with it the power to endure. He cried and shrieked till his cries and shrieks frightened away the slaves that did the bidding of the hoary judges, frightened away the hoary judges, and he was left on the tensely stretched rack, to shriek alone to the midnight hours.

A saint of ninety years, but still vigorous and ruddy from the temperance and piety of a life-time, sage as well as saint, prayed as he had prayed through all his years of honourable toil; and when prohibited from prayer, still prayed on. A hundred hands forthwith protruded from invisible or shapeless forms. He was caught up and hurried away towards a wild beasts' den, down in the bowels of the earth; and as they bore him off, his white hairs streaming in the wind, still he prayed. But ere he reached the pit, he saw the horror, he heard the dismal word, a knell to fill the soul. He dared not pray ! The hope of ninety years was gone. He struggled with the iron claws that griped him; but in vain; and, almost dead with fear, fell moaning into the midst of the savage beasts.

There was one in whom all nobleness, all majesty, was summed. His step was more than royal. He looked the uncrowned King of creation. And he went forth, as of right, to stay the miseries that were breaking the heart of the world, and crumbling the earth back into chaos. He strode onward to a secret place of prayer, that was thrice and four times hallowed. A grove of olive-trees begirt it. And kneeling there, the generous intercessor for a world fast perishing, and offering to bear alone the deluge of wrath for his people, he offered one mighty prayer of concentrated intercession. In his agony he lay along upon the ground ; but the ground had turned to ashes there also. And, as he wrestled in his mighty prayer, the ashes were reddened by the drops that fell from his brow and bedewed his whole frame. Then forthwith came all the evil ones trooping from the four winds of heaven, and made the air he breathed thick with their baleful presence. And as they strove to make the Strong One cease from his intercession, the Strong One strove with them—the one against the all. But they had come from the living throne of power, and were armed with the inexorable decree; and his brow became pale with fear; his eyes lost their living glory; his knees shook and trembled. He tried still to pray ; but a triple paralysis seized him. His tongue could not articulate the once dear name; the lips could no longer utter it; the heart no longer prompted it; and, with a shriek which shook the living throne terror above him—a shriek such as a God in his agony might give_he died ; and his death-place was the everlasting grave of the world's hope, for now, beyond all hope of reversal, was its doom—A PRAYERLESS WORLD!

The man who had passed through the gate of dreams, and saw the


[merged small][ocr errors]

universal woe that had fallen on a world thus doomed by dark decree to be prayerless, sprang forward to clasp the dead form of the baffled Mediator, and to perish with him. He started—and awoke. The cold dew of fear was on his brow. His frame shook with terror. He could not believe that he had only dreamed !'

And when he had recovered from his horror, he wept; but as he wept, he thanked God THAT HE MIGHT PRAY!

(To be concluded in our next).

Pictures and Painters.

Dost thou love pictures? We will fetch thee, straight,
Adonis painted by a running brook,
And Cytherea all in sedges hid,
Which seem to move and wanton with her breath,

Ev'n as the waving sedges play with wind.' - Shakespere. I SUPPOSE everyone has fancied, at some moment in his life, that he could make a picture, at least in outline. For myself, I confess it is a delusion from which I believe I shall never escape for good and all. As I cast my eyes on the two busts of Niobe's daughters above my book-shelves, it seems to me that I could take a stylus and imitate the breathing nostril, and the erected neck, and the waving hair, and the thin drapery loose-lying on the half-developed bust. It seems so easy! Yet, if I assume the pen or the pencil and really make trial, I find that the gulf between conception and execution is ludicrously widein my case, at least. Of course, the best painter in the world, your Raphael, your Cor

, reggio, your Whatsaname R.A., must have lis limitations. As Bassanio says over ' fair Portia's counterfeit,'

What fine chisel

Could ever yet cut breath ?' but then I find my pencil cannot even cut lips--the most chiselable of all the features, let alone breath.

Taking myself as a Representative Man, not as a mere private individual, I investigate the causes of this failure, and it leads me into a review of the qualities that go to make a painter; from which follows, necessarily, some insight into the causes of the partial failures which all paintings, or nearly all, disclose to us. From which may follow a modest contribution towards the preliminary criticism of works of art.

I observe, among other things, that I not only cannot draw the nose of

my Niobe's daughter, though it belongs to that class of ideas which I believe Beniowski, the Phrenotypist, would call familiar in the first degree, though its image in my mind seems to be so vivid that it must

[ocr errors]



flow out from the pencil's end upon the paper at the bidding of the will—that I not only cannot reproduce Niobe's daughter's nose as it stands in my mind, but I cannot reproduce on this present page the letter 0, or many another letter, as I conceive it. It is not once in a billion of times that the character I inscribe is as good as the phantasm of the character which precedes the inscription. What is the reason ?

I observe, further, that, with the keenest sensations about order, I am very seldom up to my own mark. If I try to place a vase of flowers very nicely, the chances are that, without a special effort of the will, I shall only half succeed.

The fact is, says the reader, 'You are clumsy handed.' I must, however, trouble my reader for a more inclusive statement of the case. Let us say that our Representative Man is immechanical. He lacks a good endowment of the faculty by which the intellect uses the prehensile implement, whatever it may be. Clumsy-handed' will not cover the difficulty. It is the brain that is at fault_not in the faculty which conceives, but in that which executes. I need not recall to you the celebrated Miss Biffin. Remember Ducornet. He had no hands, and had only four toes on each foot, said foot being attached to the merest apology for a leg. Yet he was one of the finest historical painters France ever produced. The force of the brain was too strong for the defect of the frame. It did what it pleased with the best implement that—came to hand I cannot say, but that offered itself. If our Representative Man had Ducornet's brain, he would do the same, though he might not paint historical pictures.

The Representative Man I have chosen will stand for the bulk of those who read this article. Only it is not in every case that the mere mechanical skill is wanting, the brain-impulse of manipulation. It may be something else ; and not everyone who feels a latent capacity to produce pictures is tormented by it like our Representative Man.

A painter should have keener perceptions than most men of — 1. Colour ; 2. Form; 3. Size; 4. Relative Situation ; 5. Momentum as visible ; 6. The Individualities of Things ; 7. He should have Mechanical skill; and 8. The impulse of Imitation. If a man have all these, he will probably be a painter. His special merits and defects of execution will depend upon the degrees in which he may have particular qualities in the list. His peculiarities of design will depend upon other portions of his idiosyncrasy. We can easily trace in the lives of men like Etty, Hogarth, Haydon, the qualities which determined their style as painters. If I could paint, I should produce endless faces, flowers, seas, and sunsets ; but chiefly faces. *And here I can conceive some one demanding what similarity, that could be traced to the same idiosyncrasy, exists between the two styles of Wilkie? I answer, much. There is one wonderful power of grouping, of throwing a diffused, consenting expression over all his pictures, early or late, which to any eye but that of a technical critic, is the chief source of the pleasure they give. The worst of your ordinary

« ZurückWeiter »